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'Virtual Haj' allows Internet users to make 'pilgrimage'
For anyone who wanted to make the sacred Haj pilgrimage to Mecca, but can't, Islam Online offers the Virtual Haj - a 3D, interactive virtual experience of the pilgrimage.
This year’s Haj commenced on Wednesday, attracting 2.5 million worshippers to the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca. For those who can’t make the trip, however, the “Virtual Haj” – found on the Islam Online site - allows Internet users a way to pay virtual homage to the fifth pillar of Islam.
According to the Islam Online website, “Virtual Haj” is for those who “ever dreamed of being able to be part of the full Hajj experience without leaving your home.”
Islam Online offers the site as part of the popular Second Life reality universe.
Ahmed Fathi, one of the directors of Islam Online, told FRANCE 24, “The majority of the 500 daily visitors are non-Muslim.”
According to one of the programme’s designers, Awatef Mohammed, “Our first goal was to teach Muslims the correct way to make a pilgrimage. Our second goal was to introduce the Haj and Islam in general to non-Muslims. For non-Muslims, it is indeed the only way to see Mecca, which is forbidden to them.”
As with other Second Life universes, the "Virtual Haj" is a three-dimensional, interactive experience that allows the user to assume an avatar (a virtual identity). The users “walk” their avatars through Mecca, allowing them to look at the city, enter sacred buildings, and even kneel and pray. They can talk to other virtual visitors – be they fellow pilgrims or the merely curious.
Click here for a sample of a few users’ “Virtual Haj” experiences.